I get emails and text messages from my clients all the time saying, “I don’t know what to eat!” Here are just a couple notes to give you more freedom and confidence with your meals.
I’m pretty sure you’ve never heard of it. The estrobolome. But it’s the gut bacteria that metabolize estrogen. And that’s pretty important, whether you’re in adolescence, your fertile years or menopause. Even if you’re a man!
After it’s been used by the body, estrogen goes to the liver, where it’s inactivated. Most of that inactivated estrogen is supposed to go into the GI tract and then pass out with the waste, without any further effect on the body.
The bacteria in your gut normally (when they’re healthy) produce the right amount of an enzyme that re-activates estrogen. So a little bit of that inactivated estrogen gets
re-activated in the gut and goes back into the system.
But when the bacterial balance is off, when there is overgrowth of the so-called bad
bacteria and undergrowth of the healthy ones, then too much estrogen can get
re-activated. Or, it can not reactivate enough estrogen and there is too little.
Either way, it causes problems.
WHEN ESTROGEN IS TOO LOW
In postmenopausal women, a low number of these estrogen-activating bacteria can make the symptoms of menopause much worse, making the levels much too low. This can result in obesity, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis.
Another issue when estrogen levels are too low is polycystic ovarian disease, where too much “male” hormone is produced, and not enough estrogen. This can be because there is not enough of the estrogen-activating hormone.
WHEN ESTROGEN IS TOO HIGH
In cycling women, an imbalance can cause estrogen levels to be too high. These women are at risk for endometriosis, as well as breast, endometrial, uterine, and ovarian cancers.
Women with too much estrogen can have any of the following symptoms:
● Thyroid imbalances
● Ovarian cysts
● Low libido
● Bloating and digestive issues
It can also contribute to infertility. In order to cycle normally, estrogen levels need to be low at the point in the cycle when ovulation occurs. If it doesn’t get low enough, ovulation is not triggered.
WHEN MEN HAVE AN UNBALANCED ESTROBOLOME
When there is too much of the activating enzyme in men or an imbalance in the prostate microbiome resulting in high estrogen levels, men are at risk for prostate cancer. Rates of prostate cancer are high, so this is a significant problem. Probably much greater than we are really aware of. It’s generally predicted that if men live long enough, they will all develop prostate cancer.
WHAT ARE SOME WAYS TO IMPROVE THE ESTROBOLOME?
Diet and exposure to xenoestrogens - estrogens that are not made naturally in the body - are big factors in creating an unbalanced estrobolome. Other contributors include oral contraceptives and antibiotics.
One group of xenoestrogens includes phytoestrogens from food, such as soy, as well as other xenoestrogens from factory farmed meats, dairy, and eggs, and conventional produce sprayed with pesticides. Equally concerning xenoestrogens include chemicals from water, beauty products, pesticides, plastics, laundry detergents, and cleaning supplies.
Limiting exposure to these xenoestrogens and balancing the gut microbiome can go a long way toward naturally balancing hormones without having to resort to medications.
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